Sunday, 26 January 2014

Café Montmartre, Paris, France

If you find yourself wandering around Paris, take a hike – and I mean a hike – to the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur in the Montmartre area of the city and, after recovering from the steep uphill climb (unless, of course, you chicken out and take the funicular railway) and having admired the view of Paris, take a stroll around and you'll find there are many different restaurants and cafés in which to indulge yourself.
Café Montmartre, Paris, France - very pleasant.

My two colleagues and I were not interested in a full-blown meal. All we wanted was a ham roll and a cup of tea or coffee, having enjoyed an amazing meal the night before. Lo and behold we stumbled across the Café Montmartre, a quaint little place offering an array of different food and beverage items. It was, in essence, a 'caff' but a caff with a touch of French class.

The sandwich selection was good: Le Norvins: poulet, crudités (chicken, tomato and salad) along with Le Parisien: Jambon, emmental (ham, cheese, tomato and salad) were both EUR6.50; also on offer at just EUR5.50 were Le Jurassien: Jambon de Paris, Emmental (ham and cheese) and Le Paysan: Jambon cru, beurre (country ham and butter). For EUR6.00 was Le Montmartre: Fromage, crudités (cheese, tomato and salad) and also Le Méditerranéen: Thon, crudités (tuna, tomato and salad). The most expensive sandwich was the Le Nordique: Saumon fumé, aneth (or smoked salmon and dill) at EUR7.20.

We ordered the Le Paysan and the Le Lyonnais (EUR5.00), the latter being French salami in a buttered roll plus a tea (always served as hot water in a cup with a sachet containing a tea bag); a can of Coke and a cappuccino. Tea was EUR4.20 and cappuccino EUR4.00. The can of Coke was EUR3.20. We also ordered a can of fruit juice (EUR3.50) and an eclair (EUR3.50). The total bill was EUR29.40.

Just a word on the way Europeans serve tea: I can't stand being given a sachet containing a teabag and a cup of hot water. I want a teapot with leaf tea, a small jug of milk and hell! I want a tea cosy too and, perhaps, some extra water to make the teabag go further. The way the Europeans treat tea drinkers – as second class citizens to coffee lovers – is simply not cricket. However, I'll forgive the Café Montmartre because it was such a nice place.

The experience overall was good as was the conversation with my pals Paul and Ken. The general vibe of the café, which was licensed, was good and it was all very conducive to spending the afternoon there, possibly with more tea, but also, perhaps, a glass or two of wine, the broadsheets and a decent paperback, like Mike Carter's Uneasy Rider, which I'm reading at the time of writing this report.
Inside the Café Montmartre, Paris – perfect!

Various Viennoiseries and Patisseries were on offer ranging in price from EUR1.50 for a croissant up to EUR5.70 for a variety if pastries including a fig tart and an apple tart.

I could have stayed longer and eaten more, but I had to walk down to the Moulin Rouge to pick up a bus back towards the Arc de Triomphe and, ultimately, a Eurostar back to the UK.

I've reported from Paris a couple of times before, but this visit was by far the best in terms of finding decent caffs and boulangeries in which to enjoy a brew and some friendly chit chat. I'll be returning again soon – possibly later this week – and reporting back with some more eateries to tempt your tastebuds, so watch this space.

Prior to arriving at the Café Montmartre, I had walked extensively around Paris from my hotel to the Arc de Triomphe and then to the Eifel Tower and then back to the Champs Elysees before walking over to Montmartre. When I reached the café I really enjoyed the ham roll, even if it did have a rather pretentious French name, which made is sound even tastier than it actually was. In all honesty a glass or two of red wine and a decent book would have bolstered the experience, but time was against us and that Eurostar to the UK beckoned.

The Arc de Triomphe – I'd rather walk around it.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Coffee Bay, Purley, Surrey.

There's nothing better than value for money, especially when it comes to a coffee shop and you can't beat £1 for a mug of tea.
Coffee Bay – tea at £1 per mug and a friendly and chatty proprietor.

I'd missed my connection at Purley Oaks so I walked to Purley – rather than wait for the next train – and found myself with 20 minutes to spare.

I nipped in to Coffee Bay, having noticed a sign in the window stating that all major credit cards were accepted (I had no change, bar a £1 coin). But then, to my surprise, I noticed that a mug of tea was just £1.

The woman serving, who was also the proprietor, told me that any more for a cup of tea was daylight robbery. Not her exact words, but she was clearly taking a swipe at the extortionate prices charged by the coffee retailers (even if the Costa in the Purley Tesco's a few yards away was also charging just £1).

In the course of the brief conversation that followed I discovered that she used to work in the city, until the 1987 crash and then decided to get into the caff business. She set up Coffee Bay in 1992 and hasn't looked back.

It's a great place with a few seats inside and a couple outside for good measure.

There's free WiFi, wraps from £3.80, panini breads from £3.80 and homemade soup for £3.

In short, a worthy establishment and very convenient as it's located right next door to Purley railway station. Nothing could be finer than sitting in Coffee Bay sipping tea while waiting for a train.

I will return.